THE PANDEMIC DIARIES - Coffee, Toast and a Little Desperation

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Dating Blog to bring you news from the new reality:

Today is day 3, depending. For me, it’s day 6. I started quarantining (sorta, mostly) last Friday. And with each day, the messages became more serious. Social distancing, flatten the curve, and the Great Toilet Paper Pandemic will be the phrases remembered from this time.

As predicted, the first day felt like a “snow day,” except that here in California, it was a rain day. Gray, gloomy, a perfect time to stay inside, read, watch a movie, and catch up on all that house stuff I never seem to have time to do. By day 2 the number of cases was ballooning in NYC, news from Italy was terrifying, and Orange-fuck and his cardboard sidekick kept spouting bullshit on TV and making everything worse.

Every morning waking to wonder how much farther the stock market had crashed. Park myself on the sofa for coffee, toast and the morning version of how the world is ending. Numb, panicked, bored, desperately hopeful, repeat. Like 911 and like 2008, only much much worse and longer. The whole world is involved. And the actual event keeps unfolding, keeps happening, with no end in sight.

At first it was no basketball finals, then no baseball pre-season, then work remotely, then no school but only in some towns for the rest of the month, then no school everywhere for the rest of the year, then all social get-togethers canceling, empty flights except for those jamming the airports to return home, then bars closed which really pissed the millennials off.

Finally, today, in Santa Barbara where there are only 2 confirmed cases, our city ordered restaurants to close, along with gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and basically everything. Even wine-tasting, which will definitely cause SB to seize up.

I had to take a trip downtown to pick up a prescription and was reminded of Twilight Zone episodes where the camera pans to show a person wandering around an empty town, alone and unsure of what has happened. So much infrastructure, so little activity. Infrastructure requires bustling humans but instead, there are blocks and blocks of vacant restaurant patio seating and stores with handwritten signs on the front doors. A couple of teenaged boys roam aimlessly with nothing to do. A street person slouches against a storefront, playing a harmonica. Empty parking lots, paved streets begging for cars.

Until you get to the grocery stores. As of today, even they have decided to take social distancing seriously. I parked and headed for the front door of Ralph’s, in my usual shopping stupor, only to be politely stopped by an employee showing me there was a line, and I’d have to go to the end of it. A line? Are we panic shopping at Ralph’s on day 6? There were about a dozen of us, holding baskets or lined up with a cart. Staff organizing the group and wiping down doors and baskets.

I didn’t know what kind of story I was in, so I asked the guy in front of me how long he’d been in line. Two men turned around and said, “about a minute. It doesn’t take very long.” They both spoke in soothing yet emotion-less, zombie-voices. There’s a numbness to everything.

A door opens and people emerge. They let some of us in. There are no crowds inside; shopping proceeds calmly. Still, when you get to the aisles that used to have paper goods or cleaning products, or god forbid, dried pasta, it is as if a tornado has blown through. Not just empty, it looks somehow as though animals have ravaged the shelves. A lone package containing a countertop drying pad; a bag of gluten-free spaghetti tossed sideways, as if thrown back in disgust. Jokes about the panic-buying of toilet paper are already old news.

Yesterday had a ray of hope. An eye on China, who say they are not seeing any new cases. Will it hold? Will we have a reprieve in the summer, only to find ourselves here again, huddled in our houses, when the fall rolls around?

Nobody has any answers, governors and mayors taking it on because the bozos at the top are sticking to their own agenda of spinning in useless circles. Hospitals are putting out social media messages begging for protective gear, then trying to make their own face masks out of cloth. What?

A guy who bought up 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer intending to sell for a vast profit is exposed and crowd-shamed and now has to give it all away and says he feels like shit because “that’s not the kind of person I am,” whatever that means.

But on the positive side, ha ha Trump, you can’t control this one, can you? You speak, the stock market tanks. You speak again, only this time as if you mean it, and it tanks some more. And of course we all know that that is your only concern. The King of Empathy is focused on re-election and the stock market. And for those who may find this when it falls out of some i-cloud in the very distant future when details have faded, he actually did say he would prefer infected people on cruise ships to remain at sea indefinitely, because if they came on shore, the numbers would go up and he would prefer to keep the numbers down. And the Evangelicals love him. You can’t make this shit up, as they say.

And in other news: the earth is healing: Venice canals are clear and filling with sea life, air pollution is so far down you can see the difference from satellites. Our over-producing, over-consuming species is no longer out there gagging the planet to death. We are sick, yet it is healing the planet. Irony, anyone?

Disneyland is closed which just has to make things better in a billion different ways, and now so is Las Vegas, another small gift. Quarantined Italians are filmed singing to each other across their balconies, musicians are putting on free virtual concerts, museums are offering their art online for viewing and Facebook (aka Facecrack) is finally being used more for the purpose it claims it’s all about: people talking to people. And jokes. Some great jokes going around because if you don’t laugh, you’re likely to cry. Or scream. One of my favorites has two aliens lounging on a sofa with a glass of wine and another alien comes in and asks what they’re up to and they say, “We’re watching the show “Earth 2020” and there’s some wild shit happening.

So far, I’ve stocked up on food and drink, invented my own version of the Quarantini, watched far too many Covid 19 news updates, and started my decades-long promise to myself to start sorting through and getting rid of some old and meaningless photos. I mean, how many pictures of the Eiffel Tower do you really need to pass down to the next generation? And what about that ancient, blurry black-and-white photo from the 1940’s of Grandpa and his army buddies from World War II? Probably not.

And now for a glass of wine and the news update—there’s some wild shit happening.